WASHINGTON, D.C. — Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins have announced the names of the Democratic colleagues they will be seated next to during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address next week.
Democrats and Republicans usually sit with their parties, but some lawmakers began breaking with tradition last year because of calls for more civility and less partisanship after Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting in Arizona.
Snowe and Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, announced Tuesday that they will sit next to each other during the address. Snowe and Begich are the ranking member and chairman, respectively, of the U.S. Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard.
“I could not be more pleased to sit next to Mark, my good friend and colleague, during the State of the Union,” said Snowe. “In a Congress that has been plagued by legislative logjams and political quagmires, both of us have worked to set aside partisan politics in our efforts together on the Commerce Committee to achieve what is best for Maine, Alaska and the nation. While sitting next to each other is a symbolic gesture, I hope all our colleagues in the Congress can pursue a similar form of bipartisanship as we begin our legislative session in 2012.”
Collins will sit with Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., during the president’s address.
Last year, Collins joined dozens of her Senate colleagues in urging congressional leaders to allow Republicans and Democrats to sit side by side rather than in the usual partisan divide with members of each party on opposite sides of the aisle.
“Americans want our two parties to set aside partisan bickering, come together and reach agreements in an atmosphere of mutual respect and good faith,” said Collins. “This simple gesture demonstrates to the American people that Republicans and Democrats are willing to work side by side to seek consensus on our nation’s most pressing problems.”
Collins and Lieberman each have served as the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Together they have authored many pieces of legislation, including the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act. Most recently, they joined to introduce legislation to stabilize the U.S. Postal Service and to modernize the government’s efforts to safeguard the nation’s cybernetworks from attack.